March 13, 2020

Coronavirus Ruins Everything

“Schools shut down across much of Europe. Gatherings were canceled or banned from California to Germany. And the coronavirus reached directly into the world’s centers of power Thursday, with politicians in Canada, Brazil, Spain and elsewhere either testing positive for the new virus or putting themselves in quarantine.” AP News

“Leaders at all levels of sports, including the NCAA, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, golf, tennis and soccer, decided the risk of playing games with the threat of the virus hanging over them was too great” and suspended or cancelled upcoming games. AP News

“Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) will close its theme parks in California and Florida and its resort in Paris from this weekend through the end of the month due to the global outbreak of coronavirus, the company said on Thursday.” Reuters

See our prior coverage of coronavirus here and here. The Flip Side

Both sides are optimistic about the public’s response and stress the importance of social distancing, even as they lament the absence of sports and other social events to entertain and bring us together:

“For all the foreboding about the novel coronavirus—foreboding that is justified—it is heartening to see the American people responding in ways reminiscent of the frontier spirit. Most people are doing what they have to do to survive a clear and immediate threat to their lives and communities… Given the scale and costs of voluntary mitigation underway, the moment has arrived for the relevant authorities in Washington to inform the American people more precisely about the purpose and parameters of social distancing…

“Mr. Trump should assemble his specialists prominently to describe the realities and goals of all these voluntary closures. They ought to explain the math behind minimizing person-to-person transmission of the virus—the so-called reproduction number. Or why it’s important to suppress infectious spread before the onset of detectable symptoms… We no longer live on the frontier. Science may not fully understand this virus yet, but it knows a lot about the reasons for dislocating a nation’s social and economic life. It’s time for leaders to explain this to a worried but resilient American public.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The big dilemma in managing an epidemic is that if you wait until the caseload is massive, it's too late. So it's imperative to take action early, even if it may seem premature at the time… This isn't a case of just the risk to an individual, as in when a person decides to do an extreme sport such as base jumping. If somebody goes to a large event and gets sick, he or she could then transmit that disease to somebody else. Because of the long 14 day incubation period and mild symptoms in a lot of people, those with coronavirus may walk around infecting other people without even knowing they have it

“Researchers estimated the potential growth of coronavirus in the coming weeks in two Washington counties that have been hardest hit by the virus. What they found was that if business continued on, as usual, there would be 25,000 cases and 400 deaths by April 7. With a 25% reduction in contacts among people, those numbers drop to 9,700 infections and 160 deaths. If contacts are cut in half, infections drop to 4,800 and deaths to 100. And if there were a more dramatic 75% reduction, there would be 1,700 infections and 30 deaths.”
Philip Klein, Washington Examiner

“In 1918, in Philadelphia, health officials ignored calls for social distancing and allowed a World War I victory parade to proceed. Within three days, all the hospital beds in the city were filled. Within a week, roughly 45,000 people were infected. Within six weeks, 12,000 were dead. The prospect of a repeat of that kind of mass manslaughter is frightening — especially when you consider that the 1918 influenza had a fatality rate of about 2.5 percent, compared to the 3.4 percent fatality rate for the coronavirus estimated by the World Health Organization…

“We can learn a lot from history’s tragedies, but also from its triumphs. The plague that terrorized my generation, AIDS, was subdued by the same kind of public education, cultural flexibility and medical advances we need today. Back in the 1980s, when AIDS awareness tipped from denial to panic, our salvation didn’t come from a lab, but from a pamphlet. That piece of paper, ‘Understanding AIDS,’ was mailed to almost every American home in 1988. Thanks to the pamphlet, along with a nationwide education offensive on safe sex, my generation learned that nothing, including love, was free. We adapted then. We can adapt now.”
Max Brooks, New York Times

“When the sun is shining, and kids are at the park, and no one you know is sick, it can be hard to imagine how one sick person becomes seventy sick people, let alone a thousand, or tens of thousands, or millions. It can be hard to grasp why something that may only be experienced as a mild illness by many people must be treated with such drastic measures. But this is how epidemics work, and—short of a vaccine or a cure, which will not be here very soon—social distancing is how they are slowed down…

“It is among the best of human impulses to unify in times of trouble, and sports are a powerful mechanism for bringing people together, sustaining and strengthening weary spirits. It is one of the worst aspects of this crisis that coming together can itself be a source of harm.”
Louisa Thomas, New Yorker

“I can deal with postponed work events, limited social gatherings, and work-from-home mandates. But depriving me of baseball? Absolutely not… Obviously, MLB is making health and safety a priority, and it's the right decision. But for we poor souls who start the countdown to opening day as soon as the World Series ends, there's no respite. Every other sport is canceled or suspended. Even the Japanese and Korean leagues are postponed, so we can't look to foreign leagues for our fix.There are no good options. Should we simply rewatch the glory days of the Washington Nationals's World Series run? Do we get a video game version of baseball and pretend it's the real thing? Is there a way to play fantasy baseball that fantasizes as if the season has gone on uninterrupted?”
Nicole Tieman, Washington Examiner

Sports, at their best, are a miracle of collective imagination. They are a miracle of joint hysteria… For many of us, millions of us, sports are a sort of natural frame of reference—a mutually agreed on alternative calendar. We can divide our lives in the context of Vince Carters and Tom Bradys and Ken Griffey Jrs. At a time when we are becoming increasingly isolated, both physically and spiritually, sports are something we can share, even when it means yelling at each other from opposite sides of a rivalry or a debate about how elite Joe Flacco is, or whatever dumb thing. And I guess to me, that is the greatest thing about sports and sports fandom: The dumbness is shared…

“In the absence of sports, I am going to try to channel the energy I would have spent watching and thinking about, say, LeBron’s first title as a Laker, into my community. I am going to try to focus on helping. I am going to try to appreciate the miracle of the internet as a means for us to mutually support one another and express our solidarity, instead of whining about how it brings out the worst in us. Sports only matter because we give them meaning. And in their absence, and in the midst of a perilous global moment, we can give meaning to something else. We can give it to one another.”
Eric Nusbaum, Slate

“Economists and politicians worry about the economic costs as everything shuts down… But the coronavirus shutdown will hurt America on a far deeper level. It will exacerbate our most acute preexisting condition: the cancer of loneliness and alienation. We do not belong to as many things as we used to. We go to church less, we join fewer clubs, we volunteer less. We also know our neighbors less, get married less, and have children less…

“Tough times usually bring us together. Trial, catastrophe, or tragedy make it most clear that we need others, that we need to belong to little platoons, that we need to reinforce our understanding of ourselves through our relations with others. That’s what makes the coronavirus doubly cruel. While most crises require us to come together, this one seems to require us to go apart.”
Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

“[According to former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy] ‘Loneliness causes stress, and long-term or chronic stress leads to more frequent elevations of a key stress hormone, cortisol. It is also linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body. This in turn damages blood vessels and other tissues, increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, joint disease, depression, obesity, and premature death.’...

“No one quite knows how the isolation enforced by an epidemic disease will affect those at the highest risk, but even those who avoid the worst consequences will see their quality of life degrade. Local clubs, religious services, and time with family bring social structure and joy to many of our lives, but they are particularly important touchpoints for those who don’t work or can’t go out on their own, due to age or health conditions. If older and sick people have to refrain from these activities for months on end, their lives will be worse, and the rhythms and relationships that once sustained them may prove hard to rebuild… As with so much else in the coronavirus pandemic, the response here will depend on the level of social solidarity we feel, and the degree to which we’re willing to look out for each other.”
Ezra Klein, Vox

See past issues

On the bright side...

Here’s how families can self-quarantine without going insane. Ruth Margolis, The Week

Netflix shows to watch during self-quarantine. Madeline Fry, Washington Examiner

The art of Skype set-dressing: how to video-call the office when in quarantine. Imogen West-Knights, The Guardian

The Gen X Guide To Quarantine. David Marcus, The Federalist

And finally, “If you like to lean in to your apocalyptic anxieties like I do, [the board game Pandemic is] a great way to pass a long stretch of time spent indoors. And if you already know Pandemic backward and forward (or at least know it well enough to have developed a strategy that helps you win most games), Pandemic Legacy might be your jam.” Emily Todd VanDerWerff, Vox

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